Thursday, October 7, 2010

Swoosh, Smack, Release

Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd share this little ditty I wrote in honor of my grandpa. He's visiting next week from Ohio and I'm very excited because I miss him dearly.

My friends are usually shocked when I tell them I was on the golf team in high school. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, or because I grew up on the government cheese side of the tracks, or because I wear wedge heels to walk my dog. Nevertheless, the reaction is always the same. “Really?!. . .No seriously. Really?" People simply can’t imagine me partaking in a sport associated with well-to-do businessmen.

I spent my childhood in my grandparent’s house. Every Saturday, if I woke up early enough, I’d see Grandpa at the bottom of the stairs arranging drivers in his big leather bag. It was always before dawn, quiet and still dark. I’d watch him carefully pack cleated shoes into a side pocket, and count out wooden tees in his hand before dumping them into a little sac.

My brother and I would spend the morning accompanying my grandmother to her weekly hair appointment, then get doughnuts, then watch about three hours of cartoons. When Bugs Bunny came on we knew it was about time for Grandpa to get home. He’d put his clubs away, settle into his easy chair and make us change the channel to—golf.

I could not understand it. What was so appealing about this sport? The commentators whispered. The crowd stood perfectly still watching another person basically stand perfectly still. A man would swing a big stick and then they’d all walk across a giant lawn, no landscaping, no pretty flowers to look at. It all seemed so boring. I did not get why grandpa devoted an entire Saturday to what seemed like walking across grass.

When I was thirteen he bought me a set of clubs. They came in a navy blue nylon bag. I ran my fingers over the fuzzy covers on the drivers. I didn’t want to hurt grandpa’s feelings, so I acted excited. But inside I thought, Golf? Blech. There’s absolutely no way I’ll be interested in golf.

He took me to a public course. Three par he called it. He showed me how to position my hands on the grip. It felt odd to interlock my fingers in such a way. He showed me how to stand, where to hold my head, and how to keep my arms straight as I pulled the club back.

On my first swing I lost my grip and the club went flying behind me. On my second, I ripped up a giant clump of earth and grass roots. On the third swing I heard nothing but a loud swoosh and looked down to see my pink and purple ball still waiting patiently on the tee.

“That’s okay,” Grandpa said, “Just keep your eye on the ball and try again.”

On the fourth swing there was a loud SMACK. I felt a satisfying reverberation in the club as the ball made a perfect arc through the air.

“There you go!” Grandpa clapped, “That’s how you do it Stephanie Marie.”
The ball hadn’t even gone that far, but the feeling was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was like the vibrations from the club had entered my body and created a fizzy little happiness that bubbled all over. I wanted to do it again. For the rest of the afternoon I chased that feeling; that swoosh, smack, release that felt so good. Most of my shots that day (and many days after) were duds, divits and clear misses. But occasionally the ball sailed perfectly straight, up and away, and gracefully skipped down the green. Those shots made it all worth it. That swoosh, smack release was as potent as any drink or drug. There was a calm in it, a swell of happy accomplishment.

I started to think, I could spend an entire Saturday doing this and maybe now understand why my grandfather did. For thirty five years he worked all week in a factory mixing paint. Sometimes I’d visit him and my grandmother there. The building was large and every surface was a variant of the color grey. It was loud and filled with chemical odor. I'm sure he was happy enough there. But on the weekends, I imagine he just wanted to shake off the sounds of whirring machines and noxious fumes and breathe in fresh air. He wanted to walk in the sunshine on freshly clipped grass and sink into the rhythm that can only be found on the green. Swoosh. Smack. Release.


Judy Etzler said...

Hi Stephanie - This is Judy Etzler and a fellow WAG member. What a fine memory you have written about your Grandfather and I hope that you submit it to Bacopa for publication in the memoir section. Thanks for sharing. Judy

ContraWhit said...

I love every side of you and am now wondering, "what else is she hiding from me?" ;)

Mary Bast said...

That's why they call it "the sweet spot" in baseball. Same thing in golf, or tennis, or - so I'm told - football. Thanks for the memories (ours was a golf household, too).

Nicole said...

I LOVE this. Word! In defense of golf (everyone looks at me cross eyed too when I say I play)

Anonymous said...

Steph, I enjoyed your story about your grandfather and golf. Do you still play? I love the game but my handicap seems to be going up instead of down! Miss you in our nonfiction/memoir pod! We keep hoping you'll return. Susie

Kornopolous said...

Andre, I am quite sure, is occupying a good portion of your life. I am glad to read your posts when you sneak in the time.

Please do not ever stop writing!

Anonymous said...

Stephanie- this is a fellow stephanie writing to you i also was on the golf team in high school haha and i am also super close to my grandpa. I think that this article is wonderful so thank you!